The First 100 Days



It might still be summer for many of us, but class was definitely in session this morning.

With LeMoyne-Owen College president Johnnie Watson and U of M basketball coach Josh Pastner in attendance, Leadership Memphis kicked off its 100 Things in 100 Days initiative today at Christian Brothers University.

Part of the Memphis Talent Dividend's College Attainment Initiative, 100 Things aims to have 100 commitments from organizations and individuals of quick things they can help more people in the region graduate from college.

The talent dividend's overall goal is to increase college attainment by just 1 percent in Shelby County. According to research by Joe Cortright, that could mean an economic impact of $1 billion locally.

Local institutions are also eying the more immediate impact.

Watson noted that all the area college presidents are involved in the initiative.

"I'm committed because I'm selfish," he said. "If we can increase enrollment by 10 students, that means $100,000 for LeMoyne-Owen."

To give participants an idea of what 100 Things could mean, scholarship programs and corporate tuition reimbursement programs flashed on the screen behind co-chairs Tomeka Hart and Kathy Buckman Gibson.

But a more personal idea came from Owen Phillips, a professor at UT who teaches at the Med. Her idea for a "Tiger Parent" program, which would pair students from the University of Memphis' Fresh mentoring program with a local family.

The idea was spawned after she saw a NYT article that talked about how hard colleges work to recruit freshman, but don't do as much to recruit — or retain — sophomores.

"Whey they really need is a Tiger family, a Memphis family," Phillips said. "We're looking for professionals, empty nesters, maybe just people with a little energy. Once a month you touch base with the student and their peer mentor."

Another thing is a college fair being held this Friday, August 13th, at the main library from noon to 5 p.m. So far, more than 20 college and universities are scheduled to attend.

In fact, the talent dividend has already garnered more than 60 commitments for "things," but is looking for at least 40 more. For more info, visit Leadership Memphis' new talent dividend website.

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